Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart Bypass

Single, double, triple and quadruple heart bypasses. Art by Bruce Blaus.

DECEMBER 26, 2015: After suffering a moderate heart attack, I was admitted to Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Hospital for further tests and corrective action to my condition. The first few days that I was there, I was given a variety of medications in either pill or intravenous (IV) form to control the heart and whatever else was in distress.

Once I got admitted, I did tell some of my friends and relatives that I was legs up in a hospital bed after suffering a heart attack. Some of my friends like Daniel, Laura, Spencer and Jay visited over the next few days. Daniel was the person who picked up my car and drove it home from the Magic Island parking lot.

It was nice to have visitors.

DECEMBER 27, 2015: I was subjected to a few more tests including chest X-Rays, and Electrocardiograms over the next couple of days. I was also kept on a number of medications too.

The big event of this day was a procedure called a Coronary Angiography. It is a procedure  where doctors “look at the large blood vessels of your heart (coronary arteries).” A doctor inserts “a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through the blood vessel into your groin or arm.” The test is used to see if an artery is blocked.

The doctor and the medical team moves the catheter through the blood vessels into your heart. A dye is injected to see where the blockage is, if any. (Kaiser publication 1047 6161)

Frankly I don’t remember the procedure. Information on the topic say that the patient gets a medicine to help him or her “relax and not feel pain”. Well that certainly happened and I don’t remember the procedure at all. The entire thing took about a half hour or less. I certainly remember waking up and asking the doctor whether or not the procedure was over.

It was. I would have loved to see the image of the dye running into my arteries and veins. I’ll ask Kaiser if they have one and if I can get a copy of it. Everything in imaging at the hospital is digital today (which is one reason why Kodak filed for bankruptcy) and hopefully an image can be passed on to me.

They told me that they had wanted to put a stent in arteries that had a blockage. Instead they found a major blockage of about 50% in one of the big ones. It was decided that a Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery was needed.

DECEMBER 30, 2015. The day of my surgery arrived early. I was awoken by two or three female nurses in the telemetry ward where I was holed up since December 26. They got me up, took off my clothes and shaved almost my entire body except for the hair on my head. The nurses are good at nursing but I would not recommend them as barbers or hair stylists. For the most part most of my bodily hair was gone or at best, reduced to a short stubble.

Then they gave me some special kind of soap and made me take a shower… which was nice. Scrub a dub dub! No one but me in the tub… well stall that is.

One of the funny things before this all happened was my bed was labeled as a “NPO Zone”. I had no idea what NPO stood for until I looked it up, but the subtitle under the label read “Do Not Eat or Drink Anything” (see photo).


NPO Zone traffic cone. Funny!der that label read “Do Not Eat of Drink Anything.” The funniest thing is that the warning looks just like a traffic cone. See photo.

I guess they don’t allow patients to eat because (I am just guessing) they don’t want them to do #1 or #2 while on the surgery table. Maybe #1 is OK as I found out later they had a catheter inserted into that sensitive area where traffic is supposed to be only one way… down and not up!

Anyway after the hair removal and shower, I dried off and was given a new gown. Someone brought in a gurney and I was shortly thereafter wheeled out of my room (with my things in tow – cell phone, wallet, clothes, slippers, books, papers, Chromebook laptop and bag) and to the 4th floor surgical level of the hospital.

I was wheeled into a staging area for everyone undergoing a surgery that morning. Needless the say, the staging area room was busy with doctors, specialists, technicians and nurses scurrying about and talking to each other as well as patients in hushed tones. I was wheeled into a small area segregated by thin curtains from other patients.

I met my anesthesiologist, whose name escapes me for now. As I was lying in bed, we chatted and I think he put a breather thing over my nose. I think I was also hooked up to an IV. During the course of the chat, which I don’t remember now, I somehow and miraculously just faded away.

This is what I remember of my surgery:

Black Square

Surgery was several hours of unaccounted for time in my life.


This is a good thing. For the next 5 to 8 hours I was out like a light. Don’t remember a darn thing.

In a brief nutshell, heart bypass surgery involves cutting the sternum area of my rib cage open, gaining access to the heart, removing veins from my leg and moving them to the heart in which a bypass is created and then putting me all back together. Sounds simple but I bet it is 110% complicated.

The process also involves stopping my heart and having a machine take over pumping my blood and helping me to breathe. The heart is stopped for a period of time to which the surgical team can put in the bypass.

The possibility of death exists if something goes wrong. That I know as I had to declare my sister as my “Power of Attorney” just in case something did go wrong,

Nothing went wrong. I had an excellent surgical team, led by Dr. Wilkinson and Dr. Wu. They explained the process to me beforehand which I had already known, since my Dad had the same procedure done in 1988. I will write something about my doctors and Kaiser support staff in an upcoming post.

In the end, I had a triple bypass done on me.

If you want all of the gory details related to the procedure of Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CAGB) you can read all about it in this article on Wikipedia.

Intensive Care Tech

Intensive care tech at my bedside. Photo by Mel.

DECEMBER 30, 2015 – Later That Day: I vaguely recall waking up hours after my surgery. The first things I remember seeing was a new room, a pretty blonde nurse (her name was Chelsea) and I think some glass nearby. I also heard the faint sounds of electronic machines monitoring just about all of my body functions.

The first thing I noticed was that I could not talk. I asked the nurse for a piece of paper to write stuff with. One of the reasons why I could not talk was that I had a breathing tube going down my throat. My body was also hooked up to a number of tubes and IV feeds going to the different machines that were managing some body functions, and administering medications. I probably looked like a sick Borg from Star Trek TNG. Lots of tech to keep me alive at that time.

I asked the nurse for a pen and paper so that I could communicate. The first things I wrote down were “What is my condition?”; “Keep this here”; “I Want to Cough”; “Chest Hurts Slightly” and “Tired”.

As I now recall, one of the first tubes withdrawn from me was the breathing tube going down my throat. That was a nice removal and it allowed me to talk…. and eat, though I was not very hungry.

I have to say that my time spent on the 5th floor intensive care unit of Kaieer Moanalua was for the most part, despite all the tubes and stuff connected to me, very pleasant. Nurse Chelsea and later nurse Pat (I think that was his name who told me about the local Jimmy Buffett Pau Hana Parotheads club) were most excellent caretakers.

I slowly recovered over the next 36 hours in intensive care before I was transferred back to the cardio telemetry ward on December 31.


Various IV tubes with medications pumped into me during intensive care.

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